Trump stops short of ObamaCare deal endorsement

Trump stops short of ObamaCare deal endorsement
© Camille Fine

President Trump expressed appreciation for work on a bipartisan ObamaCare deal in a meeting with GOP senators on Tuesday but did not endorse the bill, multiple lawmakers said.

"He just encouraged us to continue to work on it. He made it clear that he appreciated what Sen. [Lamar] Alexander [R-Tenn.] was doing," Sen. Mike RoundsMarion (Mike) Michael RoundsHillicon Valley: Facebook launches 'News Tab' | Senate passes bill to take on 'deepfakes' | Schumer outlines vision for electric cars Senate passes legislation to combat 'deepfake' videos America's newest comedy troupe: House GOP MORE (R-S.D.) said.

But Trump did not endorse the bill. "He just said continue to work on it," Rounds said.

A Senate GOP aide said Trump turned to Alexander in the lunch and said: “Thanks for your great work on health care. It’s good, it’s good."

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The bipartisan plan was crafted by Alexander and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySenators press FDA tobacco chief on status of vaping ban Retirement bill blocked in Senate amid fight over amendments Senate Democrats call on White House to abandon plan to collect DNA from migrants MORE (D-Wash.), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Health Committee.

Senate Republicans have been looking to Trump for guidance on the bill, but the president has given mixed signals. 

The lunch on Tuesday does not appear to have cleared up confusion over whether Trump supports the measure. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senators balk at lengthy impeachment trial Graham: Senate trial 'must expose the whistleblower' Graham says Schiff should be a witness in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) said on Sunday that he would bring the bill up for a vote if Trump supported it.

The path forward was further complicated on Tuesday when Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchTrump awards Medal of Freedom to racing industry icon Roger Penske Trump holds more Medal of Freedom ceremonies than predecessors but awards fewer medals Trump to award Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese MORE (R-Utah) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyLawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families How centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment On The Money: Senate passes first spending package as shutdown looms | Treasury moves to roll back Obama rules on offshore tax deals | Trade deal talks manage to weather Trump impeachment storm MORE (R-Texas) put forward their own, more conservative, rival bill. 

The Alexander-Murray bill aims to stabilize ObamaCare markets by funding payments to insurers for two years, in exchange for more flexibility for states to change ObamaCare rules. 

The Hatch-Brady bill would fund the payments but also repeal ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate for five years, a nonstarter for Democrats.   

This story was updated at 3:22 p.m.